When it comes to reviewing Journey, I don’t even know where to begin.
Never before have I struggled to this degree to define a game and its ideas. The longer I spend trying to turn my thoughts and feelings about Journey into text, the more my writing seems to pale in comparison to what I’ve experienced. I’ve never been the sort to rant and rave about games and their often contested status as art, but after Journey I just don’t see how the question is even up for debate anymore.
In Journey there’s no score or any sort of gameplay conceits. Your only goal is to reach the glowing pinnacle of a mountain far off in the distance. There is no arrow telling you where to go or guiding you through the world. In fact, there is no hud of any kind. The only thing on screen is your character, a being wrapped in red cloth (or are they made of cloth?). The controls and gameplay are completely intuitive and perfectly suited to the game at hand. You can move, do a sort of flying jump that’s limited by the length of your scarf, and make pleasing chirping sounds that can call nearby cloth creatures to you. Using these basic abilities you make your way from place to place, drinking in the amazing environments and masterful artistic design on display.
Speaking of art design, I can say without hyperbole that Journey is one of the most beautiful games I’ve ever played. I wont spoil the environments for you with too much description as that’d be an egregious disservice to the game, but the locations are varied and all more beautiful than the last in their own unique ways. The sand in particular is incredible as it sparkles and flows across your screen in a manner akin to water, displaying some of the coolest material physics I’ve seen in ages. Also of note is the incredible soundtrack, which contains some of the most evocative music I’ve heard in all of my years of gaming.
Journey’s co-op functionality is perhaps its most intriguing feature. There are no names on display and no voice chat; you can’t even find your co-op partners in your players met list. This is a godsend as nothing would ruin the experience more than someone screeching in your ear the entire time. As you play the game fellow travelers will seamlessly appear in your game world, simply going about their own business. You can either pass one another without a second thought or band together throughout the entirety of the game. During my first session of Journey I came across a fellow cloaked figure in the desert and with a few small chirps between us we spent the rest of the game together.
We worked together, helping one another find secret areas and bits of cloth that would extend our ludicrously long scarves. At the very end we were finally separated, but the game gave us a final gift in the form of the screen names of those we had played with in that session. I wrote my partner a message, simply thanking him or her for going on that adventure with me.
[quote]A few moments later they responded with “That was amazing”. I couldn’t agree more.[/quote]
Journey is bound to be a polarizing game. If you’re not looking for an “experience” in game form, the two to three hours of gameplay inside Journey probably wont be what you’re looking for from a $15 downloadable title. However, if you can settle down for a few hours and open yourself to a game that is all about the Journey and not the destination, then this is the game you’ve been waiting for.
For more information on how we review games check out our criteria here. If you have any questions about this title feel free to ask in the comment section. Our reviewer will be able to answer any of those.